There are few things worse than hearing the person you’re interested in say that they just want to be friends. This phenomenon is commonly known as the “friend zone.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the “friend zone” can be defined as a one-sided platonic relationship: one person wants to frickle-frackle, and the other does not. This is obviously a less-than-desirable situation for the lovelorn – after all, it has widely been established that once you’re in the “friend zone,” it’s very difficult to get out.
However, the “friend zone” is often used as a convenient excuse to ignore the fact that there are genuine reasons behind a person’s decision to not pursue a relationship or engage in sexual activity. These reasons can range from a general lack of interest in romantic relationships to a lack of attraction between two people. Either way, there’s no factor inherent to friendship that precludes any kind of sexual or romantic relationship. The ethos behind the “friend zone” implies that the one doing the “zoning” is doing something wrong simply by wanting to remain friends. In truth, no one has any obligation to reciprocate romantic feelings.
Some people who have been “friend zoned” believe that because they have played the role of a “sympathetic,” “kind,” or simply “good” friend, they deserve sex or a romantic relationship. This automatically places blame on the other person for not wanting to take things further than friendship, but they’re not doing anything wrong by wanting to stay platonic. No matter how badly you may want to, you can’t force someone to be romantically interested in you (thank you, Bon Iver).
If you find yourself feeling “friend zoned,” remember that there are plenty of potential reasons why your friend may not be attracted to you. Sometimes it can be hard to recognize that rejection is not always a personal thing – some people don’t like to date, are too invested in getting their lives together, or have priorities other than dating. Using the “friend zone” as an excuse for someone’s lack of sexual or romantic attention isn’t particularly fair without the appropriate context.
Some people take this a step further and start to feel that “friend zoning” constitutes a calculated manipulation on the zoner’s part. And it’s true, some people do manipulate others with promises of sex and romance, and it sucks. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, try to remember that it’s unwise to project such a nasty trait onto all the people who “only” want to be friends with you. There are often logical (and simple) reasons why they may not want to date – whether it’s because they’re just not into brunettes, or because they’re interested in someone else.
What I’m trying to get at is this: if your romantic advances are turned down or left unacknowledged, it’s not, in any way, a condemnation of you as an individual. It’s also not a purgatorial punishment. Being “friend zoned” doesn’t mean that you’re deficient as a person, because the other person still appreciates the friendship you two share, and that’s truly a beautiful thing.
That’s not to say that you don’t have a right to feel upset when things don’t go your way. Being friend zoned sucks, but it’s important to remember that there are far healthier outlets for dealing with that pain than attacking the person you’re ostensibly still close friends with. I’ve used forests worth of paper to write some pretty angsty rants. I’ve listened to Someone Like You so many times that I’ve almost grown to hate Adele. I’ve cried. I’ve pouted. And I may or may not have spent a lot of time angrily cutting up fruit.
Those ways of dealing with relationship problems are all pretty lame, true, but over time (a longer time than I’m proud to admit), I’ve learned that they’re far less lame than victimizing myself. Working through the frustration is infinitely more rewarding than treating one of my friends poorly solely because my feelings were not reciprocated.